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SONI Ulster Premiership 22nd December 2018

Scorers: Clarke(1*Try), J.McCusker(1*Try), McMurray(1*Try), Magrath( 1*Try,4*Conv)



A good crowd turned out at Hatrick Park for the Soni Ulster Premiership game between Rainey Old Boys and Belfast Harlequins, both sides having won their three games at the start of the season as a warm up to the AIL.  Having defeated Quins recently in an AIL game at the same venue, Rainey were confident of repeating that success and in winning 28-19, with a try scoring bonus point, they cannot be caught now with only next week's game at Dungannon to be played.  So, Rainey are winners of Division 2 and will compete against the big clubs in the top section next season.


With Paul Pritchard an absentee, Ulster U19 skipper Clarke was given the honour of leading the side.  In fine conditions, both overhead and underfoot, Rainey started brightly and were going through the phases around the Quins 22' when a pass from scrum-half Quinn was easily snapped up by a Quins player who ran unopposed almost the length of the field for a shock score.  Rainey recovered from this early setback to go in front after eight minutes.  Heavy pressure brought them a five metre scrum and a big drive from a dominant pack allowed flanker Clarke to go over, Magrath converting.


Despite their dominance, Rainey created very little and failed to trouble a sound Quins defence.  Rainey efforts to bulldoze their way through brought them no joy and a loose pass allowed Quins to hack through into their half.  George Fritz, who will be able to stay now that he has picked up a coaching job in schools, had to retire with shoulder trouble, but, happily, was able to resume later.  Wing McLean looked set to put Rainey further ahead when he hacked through, but the ball rolled agonisingly into touch near the Quins line.  On the half hour, Rainey were held up and were making heavy weather of getting over the line before second-row John McCusker picked up a loose ball to power over beneath the posts.


Right on half-time,Rainey's much superior scrummaging paid dividends for Magrath to hold on to a pass that was behind him and cut inside for a try at the posts which he converted, leaving Rainey 21-5 up at the interval.


The second half was a scrappy affair, with constant stoppages for injuries and replacements.  Yet another stray pass allowed Quins to pick up their second gift score.  Fritz burst clear, but his scoring pass to the supporting McLean missed its target.  Magrath had a spell in the bin before a Quins player was also dismissed.  Rainey had a try disallowed for a forward pass as referee Clarke, a former Rainey player, found reason to penalise their scrum on several occasions.  After 69 minutes, Rainey's fourth try, the best of the game, earned them their vital bonus point.  From a scrum in midfield, Rainey moved it along the line for full-back O'Neill to come in at speed to go through and send centre McMurray in for a lovely score.  Rainey front row man McSwiggan then saw yellow before Quins finished strongly to score a try in time added.


TEAM: M.O' Neill, A,Donaghy, A.Browne, D.McMurray, S.McLean, A.Magrath, L.Quinn, J.McIntosh, G.Fritz, F.Quinn, J.McCusker, R.McCusker, A.Harbinson, C.Clarke, M.McCusker

REPLACEMENTS: S.Rutledge, C.Stewart, C.Devlin, A.McSwiggan.